Charter school for English language learners tries again after application rejected last year

Jose Peralta

February 10, 2011

Daily News

The educators behind a proposed charter school for Hispanic students in Queens are taking to heart the old adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." 

The state rejected the Phoenix Academy Charter School's application last year after new state regulations designed to increase the number of charters kicked in. But instead of giving up, the backers of the proposed K-12 school have applied again. 

"There's a tremendous need for programs which specialize in teaching children who are second-language learners," said Ellenmorris Tiegerman, who came up with the idea for the proposed school. "We have a lot to contribute." 

Tiegerman also is the executive director of the School for Language and Communication Development, which operates three private schools for developmentally disabled children - in Woodside, Richmond Hill and Glen Cove, L.I. Phoenix would be the group's first charter school, she said. 

Based in western Queens, it would serve about 850 English language learners - usually immigrant students who struggle with English. "We've been very successful with disabled kids, and I think we can be just as successful with Spanish-speaking children," Tiegerman said. 

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) is betting on it. 

"It is a great thing for the community," said Peralta, who has written letters in support of Phoenix. Immigrant students "come with language challenges and cultural challenges and these needs need to be addressed and targeted." 

Those challenges resulted in only 44% of English language learners earning 4-year high school diplomas in 2009, according to the city Education Department. The department tracked students that entered city schools in 2005. 

by Claire Trapasso